Vanishing Elephant Talk Sydney Criminology And Getting Back To Basics

Vanishing Elephant are Felix Chan, Huw Bennett and Arran Russell – three Sydney based renaissance men who consciously buck the trends, bells and whistles for a more classic approach to Australian menswear. You won’t find drop crotched pants, man leggings, or monochromatic drapery in their Surry Hills showroom just core basics with a keen attention to detail, fit and fabric. You know, perfectly proportioned chinos, meticulously tailored button downs and (desert) boots made for walking or things you won’t be embarrassed to wear ten years from now. To find out more, Pedestrian caught up with the trio to discuss the dapper gangs of Sydney, their “passion for fashion” and getting bought out by Google.

Pedestrian: I guess I should start by asking how you guys all met.

Felix: I’ve known Arran for ages and Huw for a couple of years now.

Huw: Felix and I know each other from selling other ranges to people, we sort of knew each other through the industry and I didn’t really know Arran until it all came together.

Arran: Still don’t really.

Pedestrian: So how when was the idea for Vanishing Elephant conceived and how did it come to life?

Felix: Was it 2008? I think it was 2008. By that time I’d gotten to know Huw pretty well and Arran pretty well also and so it was quite a natural progression for us. We’d already pursued different things in the industry and it was quite natural for us to start doing something ourselves.

Huw: Felix and I were selling collections that were a bit inaccessible or things that we didn’t like so we thought we’d start our own label.

Felix: And with Arran we needed someone with a really technical background.

Huw; We needed someone who could actually do the work (laughs).

Felix: And hide in the background.

Pedestrian: For most labels it’s probably the other way around. They have a background in design but no idea about the business side but with you guys it’s the opposite. How has that informed what you do?

Felix: We’ve all got really different backgrounds and if anything, I think that helps us. But at the end of the day it’s a business for us. I mean we enjoy what we do and we want it to be aspirational and we love it but we also understand the realities of the industry.

Huw: To do cool things you also need to make money. We’ve seen plenty of brands struggle from year to year to finally realize there needs to be a fine balance between business and creativity.

Pedestrian: So what have you learned from those initial collections?

Felix: This is the corniest thing in the world and everyone says it…

Arran: You’re going to say “passion for fashion” aren’t you?

Huw: Never fucking use that phrase.

Felix: (Laughs) No I think we learned what we like. In those first few collections I think we tried to cater it to particular stores domestically. But as we’ve progressed and gotten older we’re getting to the stage where we want to do something we actually like and we want to wear.

Pedestrian: So aside from you guys yourselves who is the Vanishing Elephant man?

Huw: I guess the beauty of the label is it can be anyone. From a really young guy who wants to be on trend to the older guy who’s after the classic desert boot, or the chino or the classic button down.

Pedestrian: I guess that’s the prevailing aesthetic of your label, that modern interpretation of classic looks…

Felix: Exactly. If you go back a year and a half ago there wasn’t really anyone offering anything like that at a reasonable price point in Australia. Obviously overseas it’s a completely different market but domestically it was a really narrow market. Even now, there’s not that many.

Arran: Everyone tries to be too tricky instead of focusing on the core.

Felix: There’s that whole Ann Demeulemeester and Rick Owens black layered thing – everyone is doing that. But for us we wanted to do stuff that we liked and that we wanted to wear. I don’t know if that answers the question.

Pedestrian: I think it does. Tell us about your new collection and how you came up with the idea.

Huw: Well there’s a couple of books that are based around Sydney criminology filled with photos of crooks from the 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s.

Pedestrian: Have you read Razorhurst?

Huw: Yeah that kind of thing. “Crooks Like Us “was one of the books and “City Of Shadows” too.

Pedestrian: I think it’s called Razor actually. Is it called Razor?

Felix: Yeah I think the book’s called Razor. There’s a game called Razorhurst actually.

Pedestrian: Like a video game?

Felix: It’s more like an interactive online game, it’s weird. But yeah, we wanted to be a bit more masculine a bit tougher as well. The last collection was based mainly on natural elements so we wanted this one do be a bit harder and more masculine so that fit in with the theme quite well.

Huw: You look at those pictures and see that those guys only own one suit and one shirt and you see that they’ve done their own tailoring and alterations so it was sort of a play on that.

Pedestrian: Finally where do you see Vanishing Elephant going?

Arran: Walmart!

Huw: (Laughs) There’s a few things. I guess in Australia there’s a bit of a glass ceiling at the moment. We don’t want to be a label that’s overly saturated. We know how far we can go before it’s too much so…for now we’ve tossed up the idea of stores or even investing in overseas markets more by sending Felix to New York.

Pedestrian: How self-serving.

Felix: That would be great.

Pedestrian: Taking one for the team hey.

Felix: Man I would love it. We haven’t talked about this but I would love to do it. I’m there (laughs). Generally we don’t try to look too far ahead because it scares us.

Huw: Yeah in the short term it’s doing a store and focusing overseas but in the long term it’s being bought out by Topshop for 300 million or by Google. We’re trying to beef up our blog so Google buy us out.

Pedestrian: Thanks for your time guys.

All: Thank you.

All Photos Provided by Vanishing Elephant